Being married brings with it certain rights and responsibilities in law. Your assets are considered joint assets, for example. At the other end of the timeline, when you split and/or decide to divorce, there are certain rights you can expect also. You may have the right to stay in the family home, not matter what your other half says. As a parent, it is likely you will have certain rights around involvement in your children’s life and important decisions surrounding them.
Starting with the basics though, you have a right to divorce your partner on one of five grounds. These are:
- Unreasonable behaviour
- 2 years’ separation (both parties agree to divorce)
- 5 years’ separation
Once a decision has been made on divorce, or separation, one of the most pressing issues will be the domestic arrangements, eg where do you live. Many couples will decide that one party should go and live elsewhere. This is not always the case though, particularly perhaps in recent years when the economic outlook has meant some people simply cannot afford this option. If the property is in joint names, it is unlikely that one party can legally force the other to live elsewhere, unless there are other underlying issues, like the threat of violence. You have a right of occupation if you are married. If your partner is trying to tell you otherwise, you should take legal advice straight away from an experienced family law specialist.
Absolute rights around financial settlements are less cut and dried but, basically, you both have a right to claim a share of the joint assets from the marriage. How these are divided is different for each couple and, again, an experienced family solicitor can help get this process in motion.
If you have been the main bread-winner and so are better placed to replenish your finances, you may receive a smaller slice of the settlement, but many things will need to be taken into consideration.
If there are children from the relationship, generally speaking, the court will give priority to whoever is caring for them, and will try to address the reasonable needs of the parties for things like housing. More often than not, this is the mother and this can lead to fathers thinking they have fewer rights in divorce. Increasingly, a presumption of shared parenting will be a starting point, but that does not necessarily mean shared residence and is unlikely to be a 50/50 split of time unless that is in the best interests of the children. The law is very firmly based around the rights of the children so when we are talking about “rights” in divorce, that is an important point to remember. They have the right to a relationship with both parents.
If you were married, you will have parental responsibility for the children and this will give you the right to access information and make decisions on their behalf, for example about the health and education. The mother will always have it, but the father may not. Check the link above for more detail on this – but remember parental responsibility does not guarantee contact.